Gangs run the inner cities today the way the Mafia did two generations ago. Drug trafficking today is every bit as profitable and dangerous as the trafficking of alcoholic beverages was during Prohibition. The main difference today is the level of firepower available for rival gangs to destroy one another. The problems seen in Chicago recently and repeated in Tijuana, Mexico a few nights ago bear this out. Gangs today have the weapons to literally annihilate its opposition in one night. God help the poor police who are supposed to stop the equivalent of small militias from destroying one another.
Gangs recruit disgruntled young people and entrap them in the gang mentality. Quickly there becomes no way out and the only recourse is to attempt to rise through the ranks and stay alive. The main avenue of business for gangs is drugs. Drugs have crippled the inner city through the vicious cycle of addiction and the corresponding frantic everyday search of new money to feed the addictions. Crack houses and meth labs along with old staples like heroine breed strung out people whose only reason for living is their next hit.
Desperate people do desperate things. Once addicted, there is no turning back from the lifestyle of stealing and killing to support the habit. Crime rages unabated because of drugs. The only winners are the gang leaders who rake in the money to keep the people addicted. The two most profitable jobs in the inner city are drug dealer and pimp. Next in line are the drug runners and the prostitutes. When the money runs out in the city these “entrepreneurs” take their show on the road to the well-heeled suburbs ringing the big cities.
The American public is clueless as the extent of the drug and gang problem in their country. Since most of middle class America lives in cozy suburbs far removed from the inner city violence, they have no concept of how ugly life has become for those whose daily routine revolves around finding or trafficking drugs or impressing or running from gangs. I am no fan of the Rev. Wright, but I understand the frustration and anger that has built up though years and years of living the American nightmare.
The American nightmare is as much a reality as the American dream. While millions upon millions of predominantly white people work their jobs, live in their three bedroom/two bath tract house in a nice sub-division taking their kids to soccer, t ball and cheerleading practice; millions of predominantly black or Hispanic people cannot find any work other than minimum wage jobs, live in run down rat infested hellholes with either cheap rent or have been in the family for generations and watch their children either join gangs or get shot playing in the street.
The gulf between the lowest class in this country and every other class is staggering. Those at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder have nothing, will never have anything and survive through the anger and rage in their hearts towards all who “sold them out” and relegated them to their pitiful existence. This holds true regardless of race or geographic location. Those at the bottom have lived under the boot of oppressors so long they do not know any other way to live.
The complete breakdown of the family unit is the predominant reason the extreme poor have gone from being simply that to the dangerous simmering pot of rage that boils within most inner cities. Considering the vast majority of extremely poor children grow up without a father, many times with their mother strung out on drugs and raised by grandparents; the entire perspective of these kids is skewed from the get go. Throw in the miserable state of inner city schools and it is very apparent why the vast majority of extremely poor inner city kids run into trouble.
That which is important to those trapped within the prisons of America’s inner cities is far different than what the vast majority of American consider vital. Those trying to survive the American nightmare find themselves in a situation worse than in many developing countries. These people are interested in the bare essentials of survival such as food and money to pay the light bill and could care less about Iraq or 99% of the issues the rest of America is so passionate about. When the predominant issue is survival, all else tends to quickly be forgotten.
Is the answer to this massive breakdown of society found in new and greater government programs? Is the answer really going to come through flooding inner cities with even more money to be wasted on boondoggles such as “public housing” that turned into cesspools of every filthy and vile habit known to man? Is the answer to ignore the problems and simply add more police to the force to deal with the ever increasing crime rates?
I don’t have all the answers, but there are some who have dedicated their lives to finding ways to break the stranglehold currently gripping America’s inner cities. In future posts, I will attempt to chronicle some of the groups and programs that are working and are making a difference in individual’s lives as well as neighborhoods and entire communities. We desperately need to find long term solutions before the problems in the cities become the problems everywhere.